The Role of the Yoga Guru with Allison Rissel

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Description:

I recently read an article about the Role of the Yoga Guru in our modern yoga culture and it inspired me to think about the role of the Yoga Guru specific to yoga teachers.

Please join in the conversation and share your experiences and opinions so we can create a dialogue.

👉 Definition of the yoga guru

👉 The difference between a guru, a teacher and a mentor

👉 The Guru within

Tune in every Wednesday at 2PM for our FREE FB LIVE series with Yoga Teachers of Colorado.

RSVP receive a reminder FB message: https://www.facebook.com/events/371137380168968/

About Allison:

Allison Rissel believes one good yoga teacher can change a life and create a community.

She believes in the power of community and has dedicated her life to helping build yoga communities. She is the co-founder of the North Dakota Yoga Conference, the president of Yoga Teachers of Colorado and she trains 200 & 300 hour yoga teachers in CO, ND, SD & MT.

Learn from Allison at her upcoming 300-hour yoga teacher training in Longmont!

www.AllisonRissel.com/300-training

Key Takeaways

[01:07] What is a guru?

[02:38] The difference between a guru, a teacher and a mentor.

[03:59] Why people often seek a guru

[06:56] The role of the guru

[07:51] Is the role of the guru dead?

[09:27] The guru within

Quotes from this episode

I think people actually come to yoga and most religions because they feel a lack or a void within themselves. We feel like something is missing in our lives or within our hearts and we seek guidance and advice. This is very normal.

BUT you cannot fill a void with another person. You must fill the void within your own heart. 

What is that guru teaching? Are we accepting what they say without question? 

Or are they inspiring and empowering us to live a better life and to work on ourselves to fill the hole within ourselves?

We need to question everything. Do not take someone else’s word for it because that’s what they told you to do.

Speak from your own experience. Have a why behind every action that you do. Examine yourself in deep self-study, reflection and meditation. 

Whenever you come from this place of deep self-knowing- that is the guru within.

If you ever find a teacher who does not allow you to question. Or who is unable to give you a “why” behind their actions, then you need to find a new teacher.

The most authentic teachers teach from experience and are able to provide a reason and their own experience within their teaching. 

You are a complete full and amazing human being. You already have everything that you need within you.

I believe the role of the yoga guru, or any spiritual leader, is to empower and inspire the greatness that already lives within you.

Studio vs Gym – Which is Better? with RaeAnne Roseman

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Where do you teach? At a studio or a gym? Which one do you think is better and why?

Today, we are talking about the pro’s and con’s of teaching at a studio vs. a gym and things to be mindful of in each setting.

👉 Does yoga belong in the gym? Is teaching yoga in a gym bad???

👉 Pro’s and con’s of teaching in a gym vs a studio.

👉 Who should teach in a gym?

👉 Who should teach in a studio?

Tune in every Wednesday at 2PM for our FREE FB LIVE series with Yoga Teachers of Colorado.

RSVP receive a reminder FB message: https://www.facebook.com/events/371137380168968/

About RaeAnne:

RaeAnne’s teaching journey began at Samadhi Center for Yoga & Meditation where she completed a 250 hour Hatha Yoga training that focused on many different styles of yoga practice, including restorative and therapeutics. Over the years, she has deepened her own practice and teaching and is now a 750 hour certified Baptiste teacher.

When she is teaching in the room, she is completely present and aware of what is going on with each and every one of my students. She empowers each student to become the best that their bodies and minds will allow in that moment. When you practice with her, you will feel loved for who you are, as you are, and you will walk away from each class feeling strong and inspired.

RaeAnne has taught in yoga studios and gyms for several years and is now offering a 200-hour yoga teacher training program through the Longmont Rec Center this September!

Key Takeaways

[00:33] Introducing RaeAnne

[02:05] Pro’s & con’s of teaching in a studio vs a gym

[03:46] Can teachers create a studio ambiance in a gym?

[10:07] Different tools to bring in for a studio vs. gym setting

[10:34] Different pay structures at a gym vs studio

[15:21] Music differences

[19:49] Who should work at a gym or a studio?

[21:30] Benefits of teaching at a gym

Quotes from this episode

It’s up to the teacher to set the ambiance and they can create the same ambiance at a studio and a gym.

It’s not so much about the location as it is about the energy that the teacher brings in. The teacher provides the energy for the space.

When you walk into a room, it’s not about you anymore. It’s about the bodies and the students that walk into your room and take your class.

But a lot of times the opportunities and financial rewards can be more abundant if you expand your view of what’s possible and where you can offer yoga.

And I also feel that it’s important not to disempower any teacher because they’re not in a studio. We need to uplift and empower all of our teachers.

There’s so much growth that can happen if you learn to teach parks, gyms and other environments outside of the studio.

Another great benefit of teaching at a gym is you have access to a much wider population like seniors.

It’s an exciting, exciting time to be a yoga teacher because the opportunities have expanded so much.

Iyengar Yoga for Healing with Rick and Michelle Gindele

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Iyengar yoga is heavily based on alignment and form. Join us as we chat with Rick & Michelle Gindele of Santosha Yoga and hear their experience of Iyengar Yoga and its healing power. 

We are talking about these topics today:

👉 The Philosophy of Iyengar Yoga

👉 The importance of “proper alignment” for yoga teachers

👉 Rick’s recent experience of Iyengar Yoga’s healing benefits

👉 How to learn more or become a certified Iyengar yoga teacher

Tune in every Wednesday at 2PM for our FREE FB LIVE series with Yoga Teachers of Colorado.

RSVP receive a reminder FB message: https://www.facebook.com/events/371137380168968/

About Michelle & Rick:

Michelle is the founder of Santosha Yoga and a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher (CIYT). She began practicing yoga in 1997 and started teaching in the Denver area in 2002. Michelle is very grateful for the opportunity to study the yoga sutras, yogic philosophy, meditation, and astrology for over fourteen years with her guru, GOSWAMI KRIYANANDA. Her primary yoga instructors include Craig Kurtz, Leslie Bradley, and many senior Iyengar Yoga teachers. Michelle’s compassionate and balanced teaching style incorporates principles of alignment, focused awareness, and mindfulness.

Rick a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher (CIYT) started practicing yoga on his own in 1984 when he bought a used copy of Richard Hittleman’s Yoga 28 Day Exercise Plan in order to relieve chronic back pain. In 1988 he began taking Hatha Yoga classes as a way to bring balance back to his body from years of serious athletic training and outdoor pursuits. Since 2001, Rick has dedicated himself to the study and practice of yoga.

Check them out online http://santoshayogastudio.com

Key Takeaways

[00:16] Introducing Michelle & Rick

[01:40] What is Iyengar Yoga and the Philosophy behind it?

[05:39] What does “alignment based” mean in the Iyengar tradition? And where did Iyengar come up with alignment based yoga?

[15:58] Rick’s personal experience of the healing benefits of Iyengar Yoga

[19:34] What is the first step in becoming an Iyengar certified teacher?

Quotes from this episode:

BKS Iyengar’s quote about yoga – “I just try to get the physical body in line with the mental body, the mental body in line with the intellectual body and the intellectual body with the spiritual body and and so they’re all balanced. It’s just pure traditional yoga from our gurus, from Patanajali.”

“You can reach all the other limbs of yoga through the postures.”

“The point of holding the poses longer is so you can go deeper. It’s an inward journey so you can go deeper into your own body into those different layers and you know, get to the core of your existence. And so it’s all that self exploration that you go through with the help of the teacher of course.”

“Another purpose of proper alignment is so the Prana does move through the body, less restricted and therefore there’s more healing that will take place and all sorts of other things can take place too.”

“if you want to learn more about the alignment than go to an Iyengar class and learn from your own experience. Experience is your best teacher.”

Raising the Bar of Yoga Teacher Professionalism

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Let’s become the change in the industry we want to see!

Kristen recognizes that yoga teachers have a significant impact on others’ lives, and because of that, we have a responsibility to raise the bar of professionalism.

Join us as we talk about her journey and what she believes makes a professional yoga teacher in Colorado.

And make sure to check out Kristen’s FB Group- The Business of Yoga – a place where teachers connect, share and inspire each other without feeling they are competing against each other. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1367265346656157/

Tune in every Wednesday at 2PM for our FREE FB LIVE series with Yoga Teachers of Colorado. RSVP to receive a reminder FB message: https://www.facebook.com/events/371137380168968/

About Kristen:

Kristen is a Denver-based Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist, Embodiment Coach, Yoga Teacher, Teacher Trainer and Mentor.

She supports her students in their own transformation so they can Live. Life. Better. Whether this means creating space around old wounds, healing from a relationship, discovering what it is that is blocking your movement forward, dealing with a life transition, or the essential emotions of anxiety, fear, sadness, or pain.

She works with clients in-person or online. You can schedule a yoga therapy session, couples session, life mentoring, or check out the upcoming Course in Transformation, as well as other group events by clicking this link: https://square.site/appointments/book/0S13J02SMQD0M/kristen-boyle-yoga-therapy

Check out Kristen online: http://www.kristenboyleyoga.com

Key Takeaways

[00:00] We are chatting and finishing up a conversation. 😉

[02:01] Live interview starts

[03:39] Kristen’s Yoga Journey

[06:25] How can we express our professionalism to our students?

[09:56] Does the competitiveness between teachers and studios need to be there? Why? And if not, what can we do?

[16:14] Yoga is just a practice.

[17:38] There’s continued room for growth and we are all uplifted and inspired by the increasing professionalism in the yoga industry. 

[21:23] Qualities to help us raise the bar of professionalism. 

[22:31] Holding the values of yoga as a yoga teacher.

[27:48] To raise the bar of professionalism……. 

[28:36] Thoughts on the yoga journey (this is a good one!!!)

Quotes from this episode

“I feel like yoga teachers are incredibly wise and insightful people……they really have a lot to offer.” – Kristen Boyle

“Let’s work together as teachers and professionals. Let’s support each other instead of this raging competition of “these are my students and this is my studio.” Rather it needs to be a little bit more fluid and open.”  – Kristen Boyle

“To strive towards a more non-competitive attitude…..I think a deeper understanding and studying of Yoga means a paradigm shift in your thinking. Rather than a contractive way of thinking we need an expansive way of thinking.  When I make a choice, I’m not only making a choice for myself, but I’m also holding that in perspective of the greater whole.”  – Kristen Boyle

“If I were to define yoga into one word that word is awareness, just awareness.”  – Kristen Boyle

“We can talk about the rival yoga studios and all the friction and the negativity that’s out there. We also need to acknowledge the hope and where it’s going and all the good things that we see happening. There are teachers that are stepping up to that level of professionalism and I really want to appreciate, value, and acknowledge them in this conversation as well.”  – Kristen Boyle

“We need to hold ourselves accountable to the ethics of yoga as much as we hold others accountable.”  -Allison Rissel

“The yoga journey – the bad news. It never ends. The good news is I think you learn to journey better.”  – Kristen Boyle

“I think through the practice we become process oriented rather than goal oriented or aim oriented. And we learn to be in that process which is mindfulness. Being in the moment means I’m not at the end, it means I’m in the moment in my process moving towards that.”   – Kristen Boyle


“It Is What Is” – Maintaining Your Body-Mind Connection in the Present Moment

About Elaine:

Elaine has been interested in yoga since she was a teenager, practicing since 1981 and teaching yoga since 1999. Elaine Schuhrke holds an MAT from Colorado College and is certified through the International Association of Yoga Therapists. She is also a certified Life Coach. She revels in introducing the practical, healing applications of yoga to people in every walk of life. Most of her yoga training has been in the Kripalu Lineage.

When you attend one of Elaine’s classes, schedule a private session or contract her for services with your business, you are sure to receive a personal and professionally competent experience that best fits the areas of your needs and concerns and aspects of your life where you feel you need the most assistance.

You can learn more about Elaine at ColoradoYogaDipika.com.

Let’s start the interview!

Allison: Let’s get started! One of the things that I know you’re really passionate about is helping people with the, um, with your upcoming program, which is going to be focused on reestablishing that brain body emotion connection. Is that correct?

Elaine: Oftentimes in our regular, everyday ordinary life, something happens that’s an upset, whatever it might be. It might be something that really makes you angry or irritates you and you find yourself completely distracted. And you find yourself four blocks away from your house and you get to the second stop sign and you think, “How’d I get here?”

Your mind is taking your attention and running off with it. This happens in bigger ways where months go by and you’re like, “how did I get here?”

What I love about yoga is that it teaches us to stay present and focused with what’s going on in front of you without resistance and without attraction. And we can do this with a tool we have every single day – your body.

Allison: There’s a stigma around yoga teachers. Our students, friends and family may look at us and think we have our lives together. We “figured it all out” and we don’t have any problems. But that’s really not true. We get just as distracted as everyone else, we sometimes end up at a stop sign 4 blocks away too. But the difference is we have the tools of yoga to bring us back on track. Yoga helps brings us into this awareness that we are 4 blocks away. Some people may “drive” for miles without noticing but yoga brings us back quicker.

Allison: So I know that you have a retreat coming up where you’re going to help people reestablish this balance and learn to stay in the present moment. What are you going to be doing at the retreat and is it open for everyone?

Elaine: This retreat is open to all levels but we aren’t going to do Hatha Yoga 24/7. It’s a Friday evening, all day Saturday and a half day on Sunday. I adjust the yoga class to the people who come. I have taught yoga to a wide variety of people over the space of 20 years. I’ve come out of public education. And before that I was the lift operator and a construction labor. I’ve gotten really good at making yoga accessible to just about anyone.

Allison: Can you attend if you can’t touch your toes?

Elaine: Of course!!!! The only way people will benefit from yoga is if they do it. You can sit in a chair or in the front seat of your car (with it in park) and, and practice yoga.

Yoga is more than just asana and the postures. I’ve been doing a lot of mudras with my class recently because I work with students who are not very ambulatory. I can’t put them in a dangerous situation because of their balance issues.

But I can teach them mudras that energetically help them align and energetically balance their physical, mental, and emotional states. It is such a rich understanding of how human bodies work in relation to the universe. It is continually fascinating to me.

So many people who come to me for yoga do it for free stress reduction of some sort. They, they realize they have disconnected from something and they want that connection back. They, they know that it’s there and they want that.

We can help them find that through the power of yoga.

Allison: This retreat sounds like it can help people re-balance their body, mind and soul and learn to come back into connection. Tell me more about the retreat- What’s included in the retreat?

Elaine: On Saturday morning, we will start with a Hatha class and a wonderful vegetarian breakfast which is included in the price. The Abbey staff makes wonderful vegetarian fare!

Then, we’re going to use a technique out of yoga therapy that integrative Amrit method calls energy diffusion technique. We use the felt sense of your body to become more present and put your attention on some outstanding sensation and work at that edge consciously and deliberately using your breath and practicing what I like to call nonresistance, just being present with it as it is and allowing it to be in your presence and you to be in its presence.

Our body typically avoids these sensations that we feel in our body and judges them as bad. But when we bring awareness to this area, your mind becomes familiar with that quality of sensation and your conscious attention activates the intelligence of Prana.

Prana is energetic intelligence. It’s not just fuel, it’s intelligence.

It’s running your body all the time. So we want to use Prana to our advantage, to dissolve and resolve mental and emotional blocks that you may carry in your body. We use Prana to dissolve and resolve the blocks that your mind keeps on saying, no, I don’t want to deal with that.

That will be the majority of the work on Saturday. We’ll do some yoga nidra on Saturday night to wrap up, then go out for dinner on your own.

On Sunday morning, we will have morning yoga, breakfast and another session to tie things together and expand upon some of the things that people have experienced.

One of the things about yoga is that if you haven’t experienced it then you’re only talking about it.

That’s intellectual understanding. That’s nice. But it’s not application and it’s the application of yoga that has effect . When you can feel that you can know through experience – that stays with you. It’s not that you memorized all the Sanskrit terms for 108 Sun Salutations. Yoga happens when you have it in your body.

To really experience it in your body, find a pose that you really need and hold it for at least three breaths. Come out of the pose. Feel the release of that Prana that was dammed up in the pose and relax with it and use your breath to keep your mind’s attention on experiencing that expansion of energy because the energy of your body follows the attention of your mind. And by putting your mind’s attention where your body is, not only do you conserve your energy more and more, but the level of energy in your body goes up and washes out some of these mental, emotional, habitual holdings in our body.

And that’s the other reason you’ll usually feel better after a yoga session.

Allison: You’re so amazing! Where is the retreat held?

Elaine: It’s at the Abbey in Canon City off of Highway 50. It’s a former Benedictine monastery. Monks aren’t there anymore. It’s now privately held. My yoga studio is onsite at that campus. This retreat will be held in the Abbey’s room in the community events center You go around the church part of the monastery and in the back there’s a rather modern looking building that’s the event center and there’ll be signs on the stop signs and stuff directing people where to go.

Allison: When and how can people register?

Elaine: The deadline for registering is this Sunday, April 21. If you’re interested, make sure that you visit my website and either call me or email me.
The amount is $195. There is lodging at the Abbey that’s very inexpensive and you can reserve with the lodging and events coordinator, Leslie Durham. That information is on the event flyer on my website.

Hope you enjoyed Elaine, I sure did! Until next time,

Allison
Yoga Teachers of Colorado – President

A Call for Change

Repost from Yoga International

Currently, instructors who lead Yoga Alliance 200-hour teacher trainings are not required to have any background in accessible yoga or adaptation. The only requirement is that the lead teacher trainer be a registered teacher with Yoga Alliance at the 200-hour experienced level (an E-RYT). This means that there are probably many yoga teacher trainers who lack knowledge in how to make yoga accessible.

At the present time, Yoga Alliance is undertaking a teacher training Standards Review Project. Many people within the accessible yoga community sincerely hope that Yoga Alliance will add the teaching of accessible yoga practice adaptations as a curriculum requirement for completing teacher training. The long overdue inclusion of this requirement is essential—not only to keep students safe, but to make practitioners of all abilities feel welcome in classes, both as students and as potential teachers of yoga.

Read the entire article here: https://yogainternational.com/article/view/the-need-for-accessible-yoga-in-yoga-teacher-trainings

What’s It All About?

Please note the ideas in the following article may not reflect the opinion of YTOC. These are my personal insights, shared by my dear friend Pat Hansen and other yoga teachers.

Yoga Teacher
Registered Teacher
Certified Teacher
Yoga Stretching

What is in the Name, the Words, the Essence of Yoga? ? ?

So much is currently happening in the yoga world. Studios are popping up all over the Denver Metro area. More and more people are becoming teachers. With all of the rapid growth, what is happening to Yoga?

Last year someone told me their girlfriend went to work at Recreational Center in Denver. Her first assignment was to teach a yoga class. When she responded that she had not studied yoga, the Director of the Center responded, “Go in and do some stretching, no one will know the difference.” I personally gasped at hearing this story.

A couple days ago, I received information on a program program offered in Denver that allows people to do a sixteen hour training, teach eight hours and receive a Yoga Teacher’s Certificate. I am very concerned.

The Yoga Alliance worked diligently for several years deciding on how to define “minimum standards” to be considered a Registered Yoga Teacher. Representatives from thirteen different schools and yoga organizations (including YTOC) gave input. The standards include study in the following areas: 30 hours in Yoga Philosophy and Lifestyle, 20 hours in Anatomy and Physiology , 20 hours of Teaching Methodology, 10 hours of Practice Teach, 30 Elective hours and most important 100 hours of Techniques which include asana, pranayama and meditation.

Can someone without this much training teach yoga? Yes. Should they be able to call themselves a “registered” teacher? No. Should they be able to call themselves “certified?” I don’t know. Certified has two meanings. The first is to “prove by certificate.” This the person has done — they have completed what the organizer presented. The second meaning of certified is “guaranteed, reliably endorsed.” Would I consider someone with a minimal amount of training “reliably endorsed?” No, I cannot say I would “reliably endorse” a teacher with only a sixteen hour training.

Why all the training hours? I feel there is a dramatic difference between yoga and just moving into the position of a pose (which I am going to language as stretching for this article). I feel in a short training, stretching is emphasized more than yoga. It is the position they are teaching. The difference in a yoga pose and merely stretching is more than the Spiritual component. It includes — well, let me be specific:

oYogasana focuses on a single, comparatively slow contraction of isolated muscles followed by relaxation. Stretching is often a repeated, sometimes vigorous succession of contractions and expansions.

oToning and strengthening in yogasana comes from the consciousness of working specific intrinsic muscle groups in a sustained manner. The purpose of stretching is more frequently used to balance an aerobic or weight workout or lengthen muscles after they have been challenged.

oYoga isolates muscle groups and draws the practitioners attention to relax muscles which do not pertain to the asana. Stretching is often more focused on the goal, rather than the details. How often in life do we flex into something we don’t need to be concerned about? Asana becomes a practice of identifying the priority muscles (life experience) and letting the other muscles(and life experience) go.

oStretching is not normally organized in a sequential format to balance the external and internal bodies. Yoga is taught in a format to work the body thoroughly, both externally and internally.

oThe slow gradual movements of yoga places no strain on the heart. Strenuous stretching can strain the heart.

oStretching focuses on attaining an external goal. Yoga is an experience of the journey. Often, when we attain the “goal,” we discover an internal fine tuning which invites us to explore the asana with a different perspective and alignment.

oYoga is as much about mobility as flexibility. Tuning into the interconnectedness of all parts of the body enhances both mobility and flexibility. Stretching, with the goal of only flexibility in a specific position, can compromise mobility in other movements. An example of this is working a forward bend to touch the toes, often straining the hamstrings and psoas, limiting motion in other movements. Yoga would explore the forward bend from the lengthening of the low back and gluteal muscles supporting the elongation of the psoas, creating a stable core and more mobility.

oYou can’t stretch and already tight muscle. In stretching, reaching for a goal creates a tightness of the muscle. Yoga uses the integration of breath to massage the muscles, softening the tissues of the body and inviting the continued elongation through gentleness. Our bodies like gentleness.

oStretching works the skeletal muscles. Yoga works the intrinsic muscles, organs and glands.

oStretching and exercise is often presented in a competitive format. Yoga emphasizes tranquility, harmony and no competition.

oStretching is designed to balance the physical. Yoga is designed to effect the mental and Spiritual.

oThe whole theory of yogic anatomy, balancing the nadis, chakras and the inner body is a concept foreign to the fitness world. The integration of inner flow of yoga empowers the asana practice.

oAsana is defined as “sthira sukham asanam,” a steady comfortable position. The definition includes a steadiness of body, breath and mind. Stretching does not include this perspective.

oBreathing practices, or for more advanced practitioners, pranayama, are integral to yogasana practice. I personally teach “breath proceeds movement.” The breath opens, massages and aligns the body, preparing it to move into expressing the asana. Stretching does not emphasize an integrated breath.

oYogasana is about accumulating energy rather than spending energy. A practice properly done allows a practitioner to walk away feeling like they have added energy. Stretching can leave a person feeling they have expended energy.

oRelaxed efficiency is another way to define the body process of a yogasana practice. Yoga is not about cooling down after a workout. It is more than an alternative to a workout. It is a practice for living life, relaxed and efficient.

oYoga is an analogy for living. If we are competitive on the mat, we are probably competitive in other areas of our life. If we are judging ourself, we probably do this in life. If we nitpicking our poses, we probably nitpick our life. Stretching misses the vital opportunity to enhance self awareness.

oRama Jyoti Vernon said, “When you put away your practice mat, your true yoga begins.” Yoga goes beyond the mat. It is more than stretching, it is an opportunity to gain tools to live your life fully. The other day a student came up to me to share how yoga made a difference. She realized she had a rock in her shoe. She was excited because she actually felt her feet. More important, rather than ignoring the rock (which she would have done at one time) she stopped and took the rock out! Silly? No. She was willing to honor her body! Do you? Do you even feel it? The awareness of yoga invites you to listen and take care of yourself so other things you do become an overflow.

Understanding how the body is impacted anatomically and in the subtle body are essential. Yogasana are powerful. I have made myself sick from improper choices of asana and pranayama. A teacher needs to be able to evaluate the students and adapt the class to create safety for the students. Stretching classes do not emphasize the power to honor the moment.

In the Puranas, it is said, “Shiva manipulated his body into 840,000 ways, each represented a different bird or beast. These asanas, energized the body, revealing the pulsating animal instincts within, the ones that have to be brought under control.” Merely moving into a position does not necessarily open the door for someone to bring their instincts under control.

The many points listed above are elements you can’t pick up in a short training. They come from learning to be present for yourself, practicing and fine tuning each asana until they become second nature. The many “hours” of training, whether done through a professional program, or through your own life experience are a key to Yoga.

Have you been inclusive of the “whole” of Yoga in your training and teaching experience? Are your students learning to stretch or are they learning the depth and breadth of yoga? How do you define yourself — a Teacher, Registered or Certified? How do you feel having people listed as Certified teachers with only a sixteen hour training plus eight hours of teaching?

How can we keep the integrity in Yoga?

 

This article was first published in 2010.

Asanas, Koshas & Elements: An Essential Relationship: by Mark Giubarelli

“The five elements and Koshas are essential to your proper understanding of this art. You cannot understand balance of harmony if you do not perceive all these layers and elements.” That is what my teachers told me in my earlier years. Many thousands of classes down the road and the clarification has come. Not only has the clarity come, but with it is the ability to give a clear presentation of these theories and concepts to people, even those with no understanding of yoga.
It is complicated to write about these matters and how they are viewed in the yoga postures. So I will just touch upon them. The elements start with the heaviest: earth–skin, bone, and flesh;water—fluids in the body; fire–mental charge that is applied to the body; Air–the air in the body; Space–viewed by my teachers as mental presence. The Five Bodies (Koshas) starting with the heaviest: Anatomical Body; Physiological Body; Psychological Body; Intellectual Body; Blissful Body.

It is necessary to consider each body; otherwise it is almost impossible to reach a blissful state in not only the Yoga posture being performed but also on the sequence and transitioning from posture to posture. We can think of the five bodies like this while in a posture. How is the bone structure? Can I push any further? What effect does this have on my nervous system and mind? How does this posture affect my breathing? Is there that state of lightness in the pose where I am engulfed in light and that light is engulfed in me…where I am no longer inside or out…where I am one with the light that is all around me?
I hope you can attend this presentation talking first about the theories above and then applying those theories to a Yoga Sequence. (Note: Sanskrit left out.)

Mark has taught thousands of classes in the Denver Area, specializing in Vinyasa style, the art of sequencing. He is originally from Scotland, where he began the study of Yoga that eventually carried him to further studies in California and a teaching life in Colorado.

The Yoga of Freedom by Roseanna Frechette

From the time we enter our first hatha yoga class, we are told that yoga means union. But it is the way in which we experience yogic practices that gives personal truth to this meaning. If, through pranic breath and asana practice, the mind becomes clear as the physical body relaxes and opens, we may connect with our inner truth and the presence of spirit. As we find ourselves progressively on the yoga path, embracing an array of time-tested practices, we may begin to identify the underlying value of these practices, the reason for having yoga in our lives. We may begin to understand what Patanjali, yogic sage and author of the Yoga Sutras, identifies as the goal of our practice. We may experience freedom. Or not.
Somewhere in my experience as a teacher of yoga, I have understood that the yoga of freedom lies in my willingness to continually open the door for my students’ independent experience of the practice we share. Thus I become a steward of freedom. But what exactly is freedom? Webster says it is “the quality or state of being free,” with free meaning “to relieve or rid of what restrains, confines, restricts, or embarrasses” also “not subject to the control or domination of another.” In his book Freedom and Destiny, author Rollo May points out that: “Freedom is the possibility of development, of enhancement of one’s life; or the possibility of withdrawing, shutting oneself up, denying and stultifying one’s growth.” May implies that freedom includes choice.
As teachers of yoga, we are in a position to exert power and control over others in such a way as to impart our subjective experience of yoga on those others. We are also in a position to lead others through a series of shared moments in such a way as to encourage those others to find their own personal meaning for the freedom that lies at the heart of this practice. We are in a position to ride that fine line between tyranny and freedom, the line between having students submit to our will or discover the truth of their own. The subtle differences that comprise this line are, in my opinion, very important.
For instance, I can always tell when I’m teaching too much. I begin noticing a change in my attitude and language. When this happens, I begin to sense that I am telling my students what to do more and leading them into making independent choices less. If not careful, my teaching agenda can become a prescribed practice that forgets the individual. To be fair, we must have structure, some sort of boundary we can recognize and bump up against in order to measure our freedom. Our job as teachers of hatha yoga is one of creating a sturdy framework for our students’ practice. How we do that is worth noticing.
I consider myself blessed to have learned early on that asana practice is meant to be a form of meditation in which we can find personal equilibrium, personal equanimity. It is meant to be, as Mukunda Stiles states in his interpretation of Patanjali’s Sutras, “…steady and comfortable…” I believe that by offering our students choices, we can more surely facilitate their experience of steady comfort. I also take Webster’s words re: restriction, confinement and embarrassment to heart when striving to honor the goal of freedom. Some teaching techniques I favor include:

  • giving students step-by-step instructions that invite them to find their uniqueness and the right place for them to be in a pose, often encouraging them to move towards a place rather than all the way to a place (a favorite cue being “as best you can”);
  • taking long reflective moments of still time in between times of action;
  • giving students full permission to do something different than what I am doing if what I am doing is not okay for them;
  • being playful and offering creative movement as a way of self-exploration and release;
  • allowing for moments of spontaneity within the class structure;
  • using occasional cues that specifically honor free will such as: “you may choose to…” “if you will….” or, another favorite, “if this challenges you, you may stay here;”
  • reminding students now and then that this is their practice, not mine, and inviting them to take care of themselves throughout; AND
  • to “stay tuned in” for their own needs and awareness within the practice.

By inviting our students’ willingness to explore who they truly are rather than who they are expected to be in this practice we also invite their experience of freedom. In his freedom discourse, Rollo May asks: “Have we not too easily and readily seized upon freedom as our birthright and forgotten that each of us must rediscover it for ourselves?” As translated in Barbara Stoler Miller’s Yoga: Discipline of Freedom, Patanjali tells us “Freedom is…the power of consciousness in a state of true identity.” Let us remember the power we have, as teachers of hatha yoga, to offer our students such freedom. Or not.

Roseanna Frechette is Founder & Director of Inner City Yoga in Denver where she teaches all populations and trains instructors. Creator of the audiocassette “Refreshing Hatha Yoga” and www.yogabtyes.com, her writings have appeared in various publications including Yoga Journal. Roseanna is V.P., Programs, for Yoga Teachers of Colorado as of January 2001. This article was written out of a presentation Roseanna has previously made to YTOC.

Pregnancy Yoga by Janice Clarfield

What is YOGA? The word yoga is translated from Sanskrit to mean union, that is union of the body, mind and spirit. From a yogic point of view, life is to be enjoyed and experienced fully. With pregnancy, there is more joy.

What is PREGNANCY YOGA? Pregnancy yoga is the nurturing activity undertaken when time is spent (a little or a lot) to gently relax, release and attune to your body and your rapidly growing baby within. The natural, vital and restorative energies of the body and mind are enhanced through gentle yoga
postures.

When pregnant, one feels the strains of the ever-changing body, particularly the new demands upon the back. Yoga work counterbalances the growing abdomen and maintains good posture. Stretching while strengthening helps to release the pelvic opening in preparation for birth. Toning the pelvic floor allows for a more controlled birthing, lessens complications and enhances postnatal healing.

Breath work is practiced in preparation for responding to labor by coordinating with the rhythms of contractions. Breathing awareness is essential for relaxation, comfort and confidence. Just being in your body that is home for two is a yoga. Your pregnant body is naturally and miraculously in a state of enhanced energy and creativity. Taking time to pause from the stream of day-to-day activity to connect with your body enables you to experience and enjoy these augmented senses.

With hormonal changes, emotions are also heightened. Whether they be in the realm of joy or sorrow, love or anger, feelings may be experienced with surprising depth and in rapidly changing rhythms. Noticing and allowing yourself to feel your emotions fully has a positive effect on your health and therefore on your baby’s health too.

All women experience some fear of labor. A simple foundation in yoga prepares you to face childbirth with courage. To be relaxed and confident during labor reduces fear, tension and fatigue. Flexibility and calm ease the birthing process, thus reducing pain and increasing the joy of giving birth.

While practicing yoga, your relationship with your baby deepens–physically, mentally and spiritually. It is a time to be mindful that you are engaged in the creation of new life, and to be attentive to the impact of this major life passage. Taking time in this way allows the quickly passing nine months to be cherished.

Even if you have never practiced yoga before, being pregnant can provide the motivation for beginning this healthful practice which will hasten your recovery, and that you can carry on long after your baby is born. You will find that your practice will become a source of strength and love, during and after pregnancy.